We’re passionate about the benefits of skills-based hiring, but we know that the term itself can seem a little broad. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a recruiter or hiring manager who would admit that they don’t consider skills during the recruitment process.
Skills are always considered when a hire is made, but when we talk about skills-based hiring, we’re talking about a hiring process in which verified skills are the linchpin. To adopt an effective skills-based approach to hiring, your outlook needs to be similar to that of a company adopting a remote work policy.
The similarities may not seem obvious at first, so let’s look a little closer.
Prepare half-heartedly, prepare to fail
Despite a significant global shift toward remote work since the Covid-19 pandemic, when lockdowns forced many employees out of their offices and into their living rooms with their laptops, a lot of companies still lack a fundamental understanding of how to effectively operate remotely.
Here’s a hint: telling your employees that “you can work from home if you like” is not it.
During the past couple of years, workplaces have become flooded with bad and ineffective remote-work policies. These failures, along with executives who refuse to embrace change, mean that the needle has started to shift the other way. We’ve started to see business leaders pushing to undo the recent changes in the way many of us work, with an estimated 50% wanting workers to return to the office full-time by the end of 2022.
Despite this trend, it is clear that it’s possible to create a highly functional remote team. And we’re not just saying that because we’ve done it: Hubspot, Shopify, Gitlab, and Stripe are just a few names on the ever-expanding list of fully remote unicorn companies (you don’t need to be a unicorn to be successful, but if you can do it at unicorn scale, you can do it at any scale).
So why have some companies found it so difficult to transition successfully to remote work?
We’re sure you’ve seen the term “remote-first” thrown around job boards and read posts about it on LinkedIn, but what exactly does it mean? It’s pretty simple, really: it means that the workplace is designed from the ground up with remote working in mind.
For a company to be successful, it needs to be highly functional at all times – not just from a productivity perspective, but from a cultural one, too. When a business is remote by design, its employees are fully integrated into the company, its processes, and its culture. It doesn't matter where they are, what time zone they’re in, or what hours they choose to work.
By contrast, if a company adopts a hybrid work model without embedding sound remote-working principles at the heart of its processes, it allows employees to silo themselves. Staff can become isolated, only integrating into the culture and vision of the company when they decide to come into the office.
Remote work, including hybrid work, is only effective when you buy into the idea of remote culture in its entirety. You have to go all-in. Even when a company decides to adopt a hybrid model, it will only work if the accompanying processes and culture are so well-defined for the employees who decide to work from home that you could go fully remote tomorrow and no one would blink an eye.
What are the parallels with skills-based hiring? Well, let’s ask ourselves the question…
Are you all-in on skills-based hiring?
Skills-based hiring is on the rise – and not before time – but there’s the potential for organizations to encounter similar problems as they adopt this new way to hire.
This stems from the fact that many recruiters haven’t adjusted their approach to fully embrace skills-based hiring. Instead, HR teams and hiring managers often try to add skills assessments to their (already convoluted) recruitment processes, introducing this step after CV screening, rather than before.
Unfortunately, this approach undermines everything that a shift toward skills-based hiring is trying to achieve. If recruiters still trawl through reams of CVs, when the time spent reviewing each resume is still, on average, only six to eight seconds, then decisions about which applicants progress to the interview stage will still be based on impulse and gut feelings – and the line between impulse, gut feeling, and bias is very fine.
To make things worse, using skills assessments too late in the recruitment process means that they serve to enable confirmation bias. The results validate decisions that have been informed by implicit bias from the get-go.
So, where are we going wrong and how can we fix this?
Make sure your hiring process puts skills first
The answer may be to think in terms of skills-first hiring. Similar to the way that a remote-first company integrates remote working seamlessly into every part of the organization, a skills-first approach to recruitment makes skills assessments a fundamental part of the hiring process.
For your skills-based hiring policy to be effective, skills assessments should be the first filter that you pass candidates through, and their CVs should be the last thing that you look at (if you even continue to review them).
The benefits of prioritizing skills when hiring run deep. People are what make a company, and changing the way you hire people can change your company for the better. Skills-based hiring offers you access to a global talent pool and gives you an efficient way to screen that talent pool for the best candidates.
It can significantly reduce hiring bias and lead to not only a fairer distribution of opportunity but also a more diverse and inclusive workforce, which comes with a whole host of benefits in itself.
Don’t leave all that value on the table – but remember that you can’t just dip your toes in the water. Skills-based hiring can’t be an add-on or a bonus feature of your recruitment process. It must be at the very heart of how you hire, for the sake of your candidates and employees, as well as your organization’s chances of success.